More than a dozen matches around England saw the return of fans Saturday, and reports of increased intensity were no surprise.
Our Joe Prince-Wright was at one of those matches, Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat of Leeds, and said the overriding emotions were of comfort and normalcy.
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Was it in the players’ heads at all? Whether psychological or not, comments around the Football League system showed that fans’ presence lived inside the players’ and coaches’ heads in a mostly positive way (aside from a very unsavory racist incident at Millwall).
Premier League — Home teams 1W-1L
No surprises here in terms of results, where two of the traditional big boys took care of business with relatively dominant wins (though Man United needed a comeback at West Ham).
Chelsea 3-1 Leeds United — JPW noted the feelings around Stamford Bridge during the contest in his live analysis, as well as comments from Olivier Giroud, Frank Lampard, and Marcelo Bielsa acknowledging the influence of the crowd.
West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United — The Irons gave their fans an early lead but not much else, as Bruno Fernandes gave a master class in super subbery to lead a three-goal second half.
Marcus Rashford was buoyed by the win but also by the fans. From ManUtd.com:
“Brilliant. It is something that everybody knows the game has missed and it is what makes the game so special,” Rashford said.
Championship — Home teams 2W-1D-2L
Both of the winning home teams were top-end sides hosting teams in the lower half, but both winning visitors entered the day at least seven points behind their hosts. Blackburn and Brentford were the two nearest opponents, table wise, and the visitors scored their equalizer despite being down a man.
Watford 0-1 Cardiff City — The visitors surprised the hosts, and the Vicarage Road crowd had the Bluebirds hoping to see fans in their building soon.
“It was a great boost having fans here and I am really pleased for them, it was nice to play in a stadium with some atmosphere. Having seen the noise 2000 fans can make, it would be great to have fans back at the Cardiff City Stadium,” said manager Neil Harris.
Reading 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Brentford 2-2 Blackburn — 10-man visitors come back from 2-1 deficit to draw in 87th minute.
Millwall 0-1 Derby County — Ugly scenes as fans booed the players taking a knee in support of Black Lives Matter, then saw their Lions lose late.
Norwich City 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday — The Canaries came back through two late goals for the 2000 fans at Carrow Road, and Daniel Farke was happy to see them.
“It was great to at least have 2,000 yellow shirts here. I celebrated with our supporters because they also played their part during difficult periods in the game, they were unbelievably noisy,” Farke said.
League One — Home teams 1D-2L
Like the Championship, the winning visitors were both above the hosts on the table and both hosts didn’t aid their cause by seeing men sent off. In the case of Ipswich Town (and Hull City’s draw at Oxford United), there was a significant table advantage for the visitors.
Northampton Town 0-2 Doncaster Rovers — An 18th-minute red card for the hosts helped deny any home field advantage over 90 minutes.
Oxford United 1-1 Hull City — The U’s led 1-0 but gave up a late equalizer to the table-topping visitors.
Plymouth Argyle 1-2 Ipswich Town — The hosts led 1-0 but saw a man sent off in the 70th minute and conceded twice in the next four minutes.
League Two — Home teams 1W-4L
Oldham sprung a bit of a surprise on Cambridge United and Walsall also scored a minor upset at Tranmere Rovers, but the wins for visitors Salford City and Forest Green Rovers were over teams well below them on the table. Hosts Colchester United were expected to beat Grimsby Town, too.
Barrow 0-1 Salford City
Cambridge United 1-2 Oldham Athletic
Harrogate Town 0-1 Forest Green Rovers
Tranmere Rovers 1-3 Walsall
Colchester United 2-1 Grimsby Town